seller beware

I've been struggling about whether to say anything about my recent experience with selling in a local shop again. It didn't work so well the first time I did it, and my second experience wasn't any better. In fact, it was much worse. Honestly, I won't do it again unless it's my very own store. Maybe some day :)

With this kind of arrangement, the vendor pays monthly rent and possibly gets a reduction if they agree to work in the shop a certain number of hours every week. With enough vendors, the owner gets their rent and expenses paid and doesn't need to hire sales help. The vendor gets to keep all of their profit from sales, minus a small percentage if the customer pays via credit card. Sounds like everybody wins, right? Maybe, maybe not.

In my ten years of doing business I've found that selling in shops is very hit or miss. Some places will be a good fit for your products; some won't. The problem is that there's no way to predict which way it will go. And, if you've locked yourself into a contract and your sales aren't good, you're stuck. That's what happened to me. I lost hundreds of dollars because I had to pay rent every month that my sales did not cover. And that's not counting the hours I volunteered. And it isn't enough to just break even anyway; the whole point is to make a profit.

I was going to suggest that anyone considering such a deal should do their research. But, unless you can track down current vendors to hear of their experiences or vendors who have left to find out why they did, you're relying on the shop owner to be truthful in answering your questions. It's their job to find vendors so it's understandable that they'd paint a rosy picture of how things might be.

I'm currently in another local shop (well, sort of local—it's in the next county over), but it's a consignment situation. I know many people will say not to do consignment either (and there are some potential problems with it that I'll save for another discussion) but it's been mostly a good experience. This shop is a perfect fit for my things and I've made more in the four months that I've been there than the entire time I was in the other shop. And that's including the commission that the shop takes.

My point is, though, that if it wasn't a good fit I could just pick up my things and go. I'm not locked into a specific time period and I don't have to spend time volunteering—hours that I could be creating new products.

I took a very long hiatus from blogging (almost a year and that's partly because of those lost hours spent volunteering) but I'm starting to feel like I have something to say again. No promises; we'll see.


Quilt Fabric Pizazz said...

Hi. I am sorry selling in shops did not work out. I did make a comment a year or two back when you mentioned that you were doing this that it may not be in your best interests for a variety of reasons. I am sorry you had to learn the hard way. Best wishes for future better results. I want you to know that Retail is not any better and requires you to be at work 24 hours a day. I have been a crafter/quilter for 30 years and my best results were contracts with gift shops to purchase finished goods to coordinate with their product lines and then let them take the lumps if there are any. I supply two shops - one in an upscale mountain hotel in the Rockies and one in Vancouver, BC. I used to supply a "shabby chic" store (you know who this was) until she went bankrupt during the down turn. Sew for yourself and enjoy life. Take custom orders when they present themselves, otherwise you are working for the sake of working. My very best regards. Lauren

janet said...

Lauren, I remember your comment. At the time I had already signed a contract and was still hopeful that it would be a good experience. But, deep down, I was having doubts, even as I wrote that post. In future I'll stick to the shops where I consign and wholesale now but will focus more on my own website and direct selling at craft shows. You live, you learn, I guess.

Quilt Fabric Pizazz said...

"You live, you learn" - indeed we do, and I have had some wins and losses along the way too. Best regards. Lauren

Farm Hands said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. I am a big fan of your detailed, lovely work. I have been in love with feedsack fabrics since the '80's and have crafted tea towels, pillowcases, quilts, etc., with embroidery accents, as well. You really cleared up my questions in terms of the reality of selling your wares - questions that I have had. So, thanks so much. I really loved reading your entry. Jill